Nokia's Windows Phone-only approach is starting to pay off

Nokia's commitment to Microsoft is starting to show the risk was worth the reward. Nokia's Windows Phone-only plan has helped Nokia become the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the U.S.

There was a time when Samsung and Apple were trying to play catch up with Nokia. The Finnish company had never seen major success with its smartphones in the U.S., which at the time ran the its own smartphone operating system called Symbian.The software ran on Nokia's phones and was also licensed by other smartphone makers, including Sony. Nokia tried a few times to focus on making a name for itself in the U.S. market, but its smartphones never saw major sales and usually they were not even available from a carrier.

Nokia was the world's largest mobile phone maker from 1998 to 2012. The company watched the popularity of Apple's iPhone and Android smartphones grow and consumer interest in Nokia reflected in the company's poor sales. In a very risky move in 2011, it announced that it had formed a strategic partnership with Microsoft and the company would replace Symbian and use Microsoft's Windows Phone exclusively in its smartphones. It was a huge risk for Nokia, as it was placing the future of the company on an unproven smartphone OS at the time while it could easily build great Android smartphones.

So far the risk is paying off for Nokia, as U.S. carriers now offer the company's smartphones and consumers like the Nokia and Microsoft combination. Sales of Lumia smartphones have been growing and Nokia now holds the title of fourth largest smartphone maker in the U.S. Apple barely edged out Samsung, with the two giants holding 33.7 percent and 33.6 percent of the market, respectively. LG came in third with 8.6 percent, followed by Nokia with 4.1 percent and Motorola with 3.7 percent.

Nokia has helped make Windows Phone a serious player in the smartphone game, so it's no wonder Microsoft wanted to acquire the company. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft plans on taking Nokia's smartphones into its possession and instantly turn itself into the fourth largest smartphone maker.

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